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$40,800 bid to name butterfly after a loved one


New York : An unidentified person bid $40,800 for the naming rights of a new species of butterfly — and scientists will use the money to continue their research.

Researchers at the University of Florida discovered the new owl butterfly in Mexico’s Sonoran desert earlier this year and decided, in a first, to offer its naming rights in an online auction.

The new butterfly’s scientific name is Opsiphanes blythekitzmillerae, but its popular name, chosen by the winning bidder, is Minerva — in memory of Margery Minerva Blythe Kitzmiller of Ohio.

“She was known as Minerva, or “Bango” to her grandchildren,” said Florida Museum Development Director Beverly Sensbach.

“She was an extremely creative person who wrote poetry, played piano and sang, and her grandchildren wanted to honour her by naming this beautiful new butterfly in her memory.”

Details of the new find appear in this week’s issue of the Bulletin of the Allyn Museum, a peer-reviewed journal.

“We are extremely appreciative of this gift which will allow us to continue research with our colleagues in Mexico,” said Andrew Warren who, along with George Austin, discovered the butterfly.

Minerva’s discovery is significant because the species is large and colourful, and is the first butterfly from this group to be named in more than 100 years. Most newly discovered species are small and unremarkable because the more noticeable ones were discovered long ago.

Owl butterflies are some of the most familiar and best-known butterflies in the world due to their large size and striking wing eyespots. The new species has a wingspan of about four inches and is a beautiful orange.